Twitter vows to “improve our policies” after Robin Williams’ daughter is bullied off the network

Twitter can be an interesting place to interact with others. That is, if you’re not female, or black or heaven help you, both.

As Imani Gandy points out in her post on the abuse she’s had to put up on Twitter, there are third-party tools that can help but this is something that Twitter needs to deal with themselves in a more than half-hearted manner.

Phone carriers are fighting the FCC on 911 location improvement

I reported a while back on an FCC proposal to improve the location capabilities in mobile phones to allow 911 centers to get information on a callers floor and apartment in a multistory building. Perhaps unsurprisingly, mobile phone carriers are fighting the proposal on the grounds it’s “too hard” and “too expensive”.

Why can’t they just be honest and admit they don’t want to spend money? Residents of cities, for whom this proposal has the most potential, I guess you’re not worth it.

Is Every Speed Limit Too Low?

File this under Things I Never Knew: The basic rule in traffic engineering for speed limits is the speed that 85% of drivers will not exceed. That’s not always adhered to though, and most limits are set below this threshold. That’s because a lot of people and legislators believe this makes roads safer. But the statistics say exactly the opposite.

Worse than Watergate: New revelations from Nixon tapes

How evil was Richard Nixon? How about prolonging the Vietnam War past 1972 to ensure reelection evil? That’s right, he knew the war was winding down but deliberately chose to not just keep it going but accelerate it a bit in order to make it wouldn’t end before the election.

Anne Frank’s final entry

In case you’ve forgotten, Anne Frank’s final diary entry (written 70 years ago) is a reminder that she was, as the subtitle says, “a young girl”. A young girl like so many others except she is forever frozen in time, denied the opportunity to grow up and become the woman she was supposed to become. Because of hate and the complicity of those who could have done the right thing but chose not to.

I had the opportunity to visit the annex in the top of the spice factory in Amsterdam that served as her family’s hideout from 1942-1944. It’s smaller than you’d imagine from reading Anne’s diary. When I finished the tour I felt like someone had punched me in the gut and a rising anger at the still unknown betrayer(s). I find that anger rising whenever I hear her name mentioned. And with it a sadness, because in my heart I know that this could happen again and there will be collaborators, just as there were in Amsterdam and so many other places, more than willing to give up their neighbors in hopes of being left alone themselves.

Stuff I Use: Workrave (PC) and Timeout (Mac)

I recently had LASIK surgery and as part of the recovery process you’re supposed to limit the amounts of time you spend in activities that tend to make you blink less. Top on that list are using a computer or watching television. Since I work at a desk for a living, I needed something to remind me to take frequent breaks to rest my eyes.

It so happens that there a lot of small timer apps for PCs and Macs that can do this, especially now that it’s generally accepted that sitting all day staring at a screen is not particularly good for your health. Which means there’s a lot of variations on what would seem to be a simple theme. I looked at a bunch and here are my picks for use on Windows PCs and Macs (since I have a PC at work and a Mac at home):

Timeout (Mac)

While there are a bunch of timer apps on the Mac App Store, Timeout was the only free one and offered everything I was looking for so it was an easy choice. Timeout has both a “Normal” break timer plus a “Micro” break timer. Micro breaks are typically of much shorter duration and more frequent. For instance, I have a 30 minute break set with a 5 minute rest time as my normal break and a 10 minute micro break with 30 seconds of rest time. Timeout is very configurable but I have it at mostly the default settings so that it dims the screen in the background during rest periods. You can postpone or skip breaks, if you want, as well as launch programs or scripts if you want to do something like play a song. But no matter what, you should at least close your eyes and ideally get up from your chair during the break. You’ll be glad you did.

Timeout is donation ware and available here.

Workrave (PC)

Functionally, Workrave is very similar to Timeout (which is why I use it) with some differences. The normal/micro break timers are very similar although Workrave hides all the active windows rather than dims them. You can still skip or postpone, of course. There is also an additional timer called “Daily Limit” which allows you to set a maximum amount of time per day you get for screen time. Since this is my work PC, I don’t use this but it might be nice if you find yourself getting lost in your computer.

One other nifty feature is the ability to run Workrave on multiple PCs and have it coordinate between them via the network. So if you have a multi-machine setup Workrave monitors all of them for activity and triggers on the machine your currently working with.

Workrave is opensource and also runs on Linux. You can get it here, with source code available here at Github.

Number of 9/11-related cancer cases is growing

It should probably come as a surprise to no one, but the number of cancer cases among 9/11 first responders and rescue workers is growing. Yes, it may not be statistically significant yet, but given that the WTC was built in the early 1970s and was full of materials known to be carcinogenic, this trend seems likely to continue.

Luckily, the government set up the World Trade Center Health Program to help these folks and they will continue to monitor and treat those affected. It’s the least we can, really.